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New Berlin creates panel for sex offender rights

NEW BERLIN, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Some Wisconsin communities are easing up on their sex offender living restrictions. In New Berlin, they're giving offenders a way to argue for their rights.

About 20 people living in New Berlin are registered sex offenders and with the recent changes to living restrictions, they now have more options for housing.

The registered sex offenders in New Berlin are now able to live 500 feet from designated child safety zones like schools, playgrounds, and churches.

"You know the reality is that every community has sex offenders. They're not gonna go away, they're gonna be residing within our community," said Sgt. Daniel Hanlon with the New Berlin Police Department.

Before the change, sex offenders had to live 1,500 feet from those areas but that's not all - New Berlin has just created an appeals board so sex offenders who feel their rights are being violated by the restrictions, can have their case heard.

"It's an opportunity if the sex offender has something outside the ordinance that they don't agree with, to go through a formal process to say 'I would like to reside here and here are the reasons'," said Sgt. Hanlon. 

The change comes months after a judge sided with a group of sex offenders in Pleasant Prairie who said the living restrictions were unconstitutional.

Since then, lawsuits were filed in Yorkville, Waukesha, Franklin, Kenosha, and Milwaukee.

"By pushing these people to the margins of society where they can't maintain stable homes, where they can't gain employment, does not make society safer," said Attorney Adele Nicholas.

Adele Nicholas represents the sex offenders behind the cases. She says more changes are on the way, but she's hoping for blanket reform.

"I hope that the state of Wisconsin will step in and pass some uniform law," Nicholas said. 

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